The Realities of Technology?

Let me start by saying I am so happy my parents are back from their winter home in FL … I got a call this morning from my Mom who told me, “the computer is on, but the screen is dark …” Ok, I’ve been through this before. Usually it’s the USB hub — a cheap-o one I bought at Radio Shack. It has a really lousy power adapter port and it sometimes falls out the back. So we went through the routine for several minutes … nothing wrong. About this time my three year old, Madeline, starts yelling, “Daddy its time for breakfast, get off the phone.” For those of you with kids, at three they don’t seem to get the concept of a tech support call. By the time both my Mom and I gave up I was totally frustrated. Fast forward 45 minutes and the phone rings again — this time as I’m heading out the door. She tells me she fixed it — some more probing on my part and she tells me, “the modem wasn’t turned on …” I ask her to describe the modem and what she describes sounds strangely like the G4 I gave my Dad for his birthday last year. It never ceases to amaze me that my parents, both in Higher Education for over 30 years and owners of technology since the first Mac in 1984 still have trouble with it all. Who’s fault is it? I can tell you this much, the computer industry better figure this stuff out, b/c I think my parents are two of the smarter people in the world. Good thing the auto industry has made it easier for the masses to use their products …

What I did realize however is why all support sections of manuals have these two troubleshooting points first:

  1. Make the sure the computer is plugged in.
  2. Make sure the computer is turned on.

Upon reflection on my way to work though it made me consider just how difficult it is to get certain segments of our teaching population tuned into technology in the classroom. If people who are ex college professors can’t differentiate between common terms like modem, display, and computer we could be in for a longer adoption than what seems reasonable. My wife tells me I need to use Madeline’s labeler to put the words Monitor, Computer, Printer, USB Hub, etc on all the parts to simplify support calls. I now see why it is important to actually teach students what the components of the computer system are even if it seems silly. We have pages in our Online IST 110 courseware that goes over these things and it always drove me crazy that we were “wasting time” teaching these things … its now obvious that these are the building blocks that let them understand how the technology works, and eventually how it can be applied to solve real problems. At any rate, long story to get to the point, but I just thought it was too good to not post. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is the tech support person for the people in their lives that we love (and have talked into using technology).

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